Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment.

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter Sunday to the CEO of Norfolk Southern warning that the freight rail company must “demonstrate unequivocal support for the people” of East Palestine, Ohio and surrounding areas. after the derailment of the fiery train resulted in the release of chemicals and residents expressed concern for their health.

“South Norfolk must live up to its commitment to make residents whole — and must also live up to its commitment to do everything it can to stop putting communities like East Palestine at risk,” Buttigieg wrote. “The time is right for Norfolk Southern to take a leadership position in the rail industry by moving to a position that focuses on supporting, not derailing, efforts to raise the standards of U.S. rail safety regulation.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that chemicals that spilled into the Ohio River are no longer a danger, even as people in the community say they are suffering from constant headaches and irritated eyes. The state plans to open a medical clinic in the village of 4,700 residents to analyze their symptoms, despite repeated claims that air and water testing showed no signs of contamination.

RELATED: ODH has released details on the opening of a clinic in East Palestine

Still, uncertainty remains about the aftermath of the derailment that occurred about two weeks ago.

Peter DeCarlo, a professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News on Sunday that more testing is needed to determine what chemicals are present.

“We just don’t have the information we need to understand what chemicals might be present,” DeCarlo said. “We know it started with vinyl chloride, but once you burn it, all bets are off. You have a lot of chemical by-products that can come out of that kind of combustion process.”

Asked if he would return to East Palestine if he were already living there, DeCarlo said: “I have two little boys. I wouldn’t.”

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said Saturday that he “returned to East Palestine today to meet with local leaders, first responders and a group of Norfolk Southern employees who live in the area.”

“In every conversation today, I’ve shared how sorry I am that this happened to their home,” Shaw said. The Atlanta-based company has created an update website,

The transport secretary’s letter on Sunday was a stark warning to Norfolk Southern, saying: “It is vital that your company is unequivocal and open about its commitment to looking after residents – now and in the future.”

Buttigieg said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment and that the Federal Railroad Administration is also looking into whether there were safety violations and would hold Norfolk Southern accountable if violations did occur.

The Environmental Protection Agency said the company must document the release of hazardous pollutants and outline cleanup actions.

But Buttigieg also said that Norfolk Southern and other rail companies “have spent millions of dollars in court and lobbying members of Congress to fight common sense safety rules, shutting down some entirely and scaling back others.” He said the effort undermined rules on brake requirements and delayed the phase-in of more durable rail cars for hazardous materials until 2029 instead of the “originally anticipated date of 2025.”

The transportation secretary said the results of the investigation are not yet known, but “we know that these steps, which Norfolk Southern and its colleagues lobbied against, were designed to improve rail safety and help keep Americans safe.”

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